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The Science Behind Why Music Makes Us Feel So Good

The Science Behind Why Music Makes Us Feel So Good

Music plays an important role in our lives. Our coming of age is marked by a personal soundtrack and we can evoke vivid memories and emotions by listening to music. People who make music can attest to this further and are said to have high levels of intelligence, especially if they can read and create original music by playing a variety of musical instruments or using their voice as an instrument in song. There is a lot of research about music and its relationship to intelligence.

If you have ever been moved by a piece of music or experienced a life changing live musical performance; if you’ve created music or have found solace in playing an instrument or listening to your favorite artist, you will be interested in the science behind why music makes us feel so good.

Enjoying music is unique to humans. Unlike food or sex, music isn’t necessary for our survival, but it is extremely rewarding and pleasurable. It taps into the same parts of the brain that pleasure from sex and food does. Music floods the brain with a chemical called dopamine. Dopamine is the chemical in the brain associated with pleasure, motivation and reward.

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Studies have shown that certain pieces of classical music will have the same effect on everyone. They trigger the same changes in the brain regardless of past musical experience or preference. Of course everyone is different and music will make us respond according to our own taste and familiarity. Our enjoyment is simply determined by whether or not we like it. However these investigations have shown that some music will cause our brains to respond unanimously and gives people a universal experience, especially when being enjoyed simultaneously like at an orchestral concert.

Neuroscientists Dr Valorie Salimpoor and Dr Robert Zatorre conducted research using PET scans (positron emission tomography) to detect the release of dopamine in the brain when subjects listened to their favorite songs. They later used MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) to view the pleasure center of the brain where the dopamine is released and then mapped out its connection with other areas of the brain associated with emotion, learning, memory and decision making. It was these connections that were the most interesting revelation.

The pleasure center of the brain predicts what king of music we will enjoy based on the connection it makes to other parts of our brain, according to what our brain is ‘programmed’ to like.

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“It predicts the reward that you’ll feel from a given piece of music based on similar types of music you’ve heard before. If you like it better than predicted, it registers as intense pleasure. If you feel worse than predicted, you feel bored or disappointed.” Virginia Hughes, National Geographic

New music fits into patterns already mapped out in the brain by our past musical tastes. It is pleasurable not only because it is familiar, but it deviates just enough to feel new and exciting. It doesn’t seem repetitive.

Music therefore can be used as a mood enhancer or elevator. For the brokenhearted, a sad song is empathetic and validating. It is an elixir of motivation to compel the completion of the most mundane of tasks. There are many ways to participate in and utilize music and broadening musical experience and taste can become a journey of self discovery, for like any art form, in music we see our humanity.

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There are several ways to participate in music on a daily basis.

Listen to it.

Put on the radio, get out your old records, plug in your device. Whatever you are doing, music can be present in the background or the foreground. For example; listen to something energetic while you wash the car. Some classical music playing softly in the background is a great compliment to reading or studying.

Make it.

Play an instrument. If you don’t know how, improvise or better still, learn. It is never too late and even without formal music reading education and training, anyone can tune into their own musicality and learn the intricacies of an instrument. Try a simple percussion instrument like a bongo or tambourine if you have rhythm or something more complicated like the piano or guitar with formal lessons. And sing. Sing your heart out. In the shower or the car, to your children. Do karaoke, make up songs and sing along to the ones you know and love. Singing is a fantastic stress reliever and can be meditative too.

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Understand it.

Learn to read and understand music, the composition of a song, melody, lyric writing, different styles – the list is endless. Exploring music can be determined by your own personal interests. Maybe music history is your forte, or indulging in the classics. Read the biographies of your favorite musicians or artists, they are always extremely fascinating.

Go global.

Find out about musical styles and instruments from around the world and try and witness them. Music is a wonderful way to learn about a culture while you are traveling. Make an effort to see a traditional show or concert every time you are abroad and broaden your musical horizons.

Music makes us feel so good and the benefits of music are many. It calms and soothes us when we are anxious or sad. It motivates and energizes us when we need incentive. It’s a great tool for distraction and redirecting our focus. It educates us and opens our minds to the common human experience, our history and our hope for the future.

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Diane Koopman

Writer, Author, Novelist, Self-Publisher

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Last Updated on May 28, 2020

How to Overcome Boredom

How to Overcome Boredom

Have you ever been bored? Restless? Fidgety? In need of some inspiration?

I have a theory on boredom. I believe that the rate of boredom has increased alongside the pace of technology.

If you think about it, technology has provided us with mobile phones, laptops, Ipads, device after device – all to ultimately fix one problem: boredom.

What is Boredom?

We have become a global nation that feeds on entertainment. We associate ‘living’ with ‘doing’. People now do not know how to sit still, and we feel guilty when we are not doing anything. Today, inactivity has become the ultimate sin.

You might not realize it, but boredom stimulates a form of anxiety and stress. It evokes an emotional state that creates frustration and feeds procrastination.

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It’s a desire to be ‘doing something’ or to be ‘entertained’ – it’s a desire for sensory stimulation. What it boils down to is a lack of focus.

If you think about those times when you’re bored, it’s usually because you did not know what to do. So, indecision also plays a big part.

When we are focused on what’s important to us and what we want to achieve, it’s pretty hard to be bored. So, one answer to boredom is to become focused on what you want.

Sometimes It’s Good to Be Bored

If boredom is a desire for sensory stimulation – then what’s the opposite of that? To be content with no stimulation – in other words – to enjoy stillness.

Sometimes, it’s not boredom itself that causes the frustration but the resistance to doing nothing.

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Think about it. What would happen if you were to ‘let go’ of the desire to be entertained? You wouldn’t be bored anymore, and you will feel more relaxed!

In my experience, it’s often the most obvious, simplistic solutions that are the most powerful in life. So, when you’re bored, the easiest way to combat this is to enjoy it.

It may sound weird but think of ‘boredom’ as a form of ‘relaxation’. It’s a break from the constant stimulation that 21st-century living provides – constant TVs, mobile phones, radios, internet, emails, phone calls, etc.

Who knows, maybe ‘boredom’ is actually good for us?

Next time you’re ‘feeling bored’ instead of feeding the frustration by frantically looking for something to do, maybe you can sit back, relax, and savor the feeling of having nothing to do.

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In this article, I’ll share with you my 3-step strategy on how to overcome boredom.

3-Step Strategy to Overcome Boredom

1. Get Focused

Instead of chasing sensory stimulation at random, focus on what’s really important to you. Focusing on something important helps prevent boredom because it forces you to utilize your time productively.

You should ask yourself: what would make good use of your time? What could you be doing that would contribute to your major goals in life?

Here are a few ideas:

  • Spend some time in quiet contemplation considering what’s important to you.
  • Start that creative project you’ve been talking about for the last few weeks.
  • Brainstorm: think of some ideas for new innovative products or businesses.

2. Kill Procrastination

Boredom is useful in some ways because it gives you the energy and time to do things. It is only a problem if you let it. But if you use it to motivate yourself to be productive, then you can more easily overcome boredom.

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So, the next time you’re bored, why not put this good energy to use by ticking off those things that you have been meaning to get done but have been too busy to finish? This also presents a great time for you to clear your to-do list.

Here are some ideas:

  • Do some exercise.
  • Read a book.
  • Learn something new.
  • Call a friend.
  • Get creative (draw, paint, sculpt, create music, write).
  • Do a spring cleaning.
  • Wash the car.
  • Renovate the house.
  • Re-arrange the furniture.
  • Write your shopping list.
  • Water the plants.
  • Walk the dog.
  • Sort out your mail & email.
  • De-clutter (clear out that wardrobe).

3. Enjoy Boredom

If none of the above solutions work, then you can try a different approach. Don’t give in to boredom and instead choose to enjoy it. This doesn’t mean allowing yourself to waste your time being bored. Instead, think of it as your time to relax and re-energize, which will help you be more productive the next time you work.

Contrary to popular belief, we don’t need to be constantly doing things to be productive. In fact, research has shown that people are more productive when they take periods of rest to recharge.[1] Taking breaks once in a while helps boost your performance and can help make you feel more motivated.

So, take some time to relax. You never know, you might even like it.

Final Thoughts

Learning how to overcome boredom may be difficult at the beginning, but it can be easier if you make use of some techniques. You can start with my 3-step strategy on how to overcome boredom and work your way from there. So, ready your mind and make use of these tips, and you will be overcoming boredom in no time.

More Tips on Overcoming Boredom

Featured photo credit: Johnny Cohen via unsplash.com

Reference

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